How did I get here?


It’s easy to forget why I’m doing what I’m doing here – what’s the overall reason behind it. If I’m not on the path I thought I was, I might be experiencing “mission drift” – that slow creeping compromise, bit by bit, where you end up somewhere quite different than you had intended.

mission drift” – that slow creeping compromise, bit by bit, where you end up somewhere quite different than you had intended

It’s easy to be caught with all of the busyness of keeping up with everything going on in your industry:

  • who’s doing what?
  • what’s been announced today?
  • who is expanding here, contracting there?
  • What’s the government policy going to be?
  • How can I make sure that I’m going to be ok?

Let me tell you about a meeting I was once in with a group of community organisations and a funder. We were talking about the contraction of government funding and the impact that it was going to have on community organisations we were in. These were difficult times as organisations considered whether they could afford to keep staff. It was particularly difficult as none of the organisations wanted to be downsizing what are really vital services. I’ve been in this situation myself, more than once, and it’s a very difficult circumstance – the business reality and compassion collide.

For quite a while the discussion focussed on what the impact was going to be on the organisations if the funding contracted or changed. Then the focus shifted to the impact on staff and how the uncertainty was very difficult for them, and was creating high levels of stress and lack of motivation.

All of this is true – these are the realities of running a community service organisation.

But at some point, in this meeting the discussion shifted to what the impact on the people who needed these services would be.

We had to remind ourselves that this is not about us, it’s about them.

That is, that the impact on staff and service providers is a really poor proxy for the impact that the people who need the service are going to experience. We needed to remind ourselves that our focus has to be on delivering the best outcomes for clients with whatever the available resources are.

It makes me think whether I had things around the right way – shouldn’t clients be the first thing I consider when things are getting tough?

Can I create a mindset, or working style that places my clients – whoever they are – at the start, centre, and end of my work? Sounds easy doesn’t it. However, I don’t think that I have ever truly managed it. Particularly when I have been in roles where I haven’t been in direct contact with clients – it’s easy to become unaware of what clients actually need. Nonetheless, I need to get better at being focused on what my true purpose is, and who I am trying to serve.

How do you keep from experiencing mission drift?